Born Ardis Ankerson on September 29, 1915, in Negros, Philippines. Ardis Ankerson attended Texas Woman's College for her freshman and sophomore years, 1934-1935. She was named the Freshman Class Beauty in 1934, chosen by modern dancer Ted Shawn.
Marshall had a popular success in The Constant Nymph (1943), but she virtually retired after this, appearing in only four more inconsequential films. In one of these, she played scientist Nora Goodrich in the B picture cult classic Strange Impersonation (1946). In 1955, five years after her last film role, she made an appearance as herself (billed as Mrs. William Holden) in the fourth season episode of I Love Lucy entitled "The Fashion Show".
Brenda Marshall was her stage name but she refused to use the name off-camera and insisted that her friends call her by her real name. First married to actor Richard Huston Gaines (born July 23, 1904, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, died July 20, 1975, in North Hollywood, California) in 1936, they had one daughter, Virginia; the couple divorced in 1940. In 1941, Marshall married actorWilliam Holden, who subsequently adopted Virginia Gaines (born November 17, 1937, New York City). Marshall and Holden had two additional children: Scott Porter Holden (born May 2, 1946, died January 21, 2005, of lung cancer in San Diego, California) and Peter Westfield Holden (born November 17, 1943). After several separations, Marshall and Holden were divorced in 1971. Marshall died fromthroat cancer in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 76.